Sherborn War Memorial

Location: In front of Central Cemetery, 3 South Main Street, Sherborn
Coordinates: 42°14’32.6″N 71°22’12.0″W
Date dedicated: October 13, 1924
Design/Sculptor/Manufacturer: Cyrus Dallin, sculptor; William Ware Dinsmore, architectural design

After World War I, it became common for towns that had not built any sort of war memorial to construct one of the “honor roll” variety with multiple plaques, thus honoring their soldiers from several different wars. While these are not, strictly speaking, Civil War monuments, they will be included here if a town has no separate Civil War monument and the memorial includes a list of those who served and/or died in the Civil War.  

Sherborn’s memorial lists Sherborn men who died in war from King Philip’s War to the First World War. Sixteen names are listed under the Civil War. A total of eight are listed under other wars, a proportion which, from a certain perspective, makes this predominantly a Civil War monument.  Although in terms of artistic motifs it is very much in keeping with a World War I monument.

The dedication of the memorial was the featured event during the town’s three-day long 250th anniversary celebration. It took place on Monday, October 13, 1924, on the last day of the festivities. It was preceded by a large parade and followed by a dress ball in the Town Hall in the evening (with an alternative musical performance in “Unity Hall” for those who “preferred old-time dances”).[1]  

The war memorial was given to the town by William Bradford Homer Dowse, a successful lawyer, businessman and philanthropist who was born in Sherborn. He also donated the Dowse Memorial Library building in 1914. Dowse’s father, Rev. Edmund Dowse, served with the Christian Commission during the Civil War and tended to wounded Union soldiers in Tennessee. He was engaged in this work only a short time as the death of his wife summoned him home.[2]  

The acclaimed sculptor Cyrus Dallin was engaged to create the central statue of the memorial which depicts an allegorical figure, “Memory.” Eight feet in height, she holds a metal helmet of the First World War variety encircled with laurel, symbolizing victory. Newspaper reports of the time commented that she seemed to be posed in contemplation of those lost. As one report put it, she looked with “downcast face in an attitude of pensive remembrance.”[3] Dallin is best known for his equestrian statue of Paul Revere near Boston’s Old North Church and the statue of a Native American on horseback in front of the Museum of Fine Arts known as “The Appeal to the Great Spirit.” The architectural surround for the monument was designed by Boston architect William Ware Dinsmore.[4] The primary inscription reads, “In memory of the men of Sherborn who gave their lives in defense of their country.”  

Dowse stated that he hoped the memorial would “incite in the hearts of youth an even greater love for their parents and forebears and a greater love, veneration and respect for the men who have fought for their country in times of its peril.”[5]  

Eighty-two men from Sherborn served in the Civil War.[6] Among the sixteen war dead listed are two men (James W. Green and William F. Hill) who served with the 54th Massachusetts—the first black regiment formed in the northern states. Hill was captured during the regiment’s charge on Fort Wagner outside Charlestown. He died a prisoner of war a year and a half later. Another soldier, Thomas Taber, died after nearly a year in the infamous Andersonville Prison. Another, Edmund S. Whitney, was killed in action while serving with the 12th Massachusetts in the Cornfield at the Battle of Antietam. The 12th Massachusetts suffered a casualty rate of 67% that day, the highest of any Union regiment on the field.

[1] “Sherborn to Celebrate its 250th Anniversary,” Boston Globe, October 9, 1924, 23.

[2] Charles Francis Adams, Fifty Years a Pastor: A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Edmund Dowse (Sherborn: published by the author, 1888), 58.

[3] “Sherborn Dedicates War Shaft Monday,” Boston Herald, October 12, 1924, 1.

[4] Sherborn Historical Commission, “The Memory Statue

[5] Anne Carr Shaughnessy, The Town of Sherborn (Sherborn: The 300th Anniversary Committee, 1974), 64.

[6] Shaughnessy, 178.

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